I was watching CBS, “Betty White’s ‘Off Their Rockers,” and was getting angry. The show is a new spin on candid camera pranks, where older improv actors say and do outrageous things in from of unsuspecting younger people. There’s Betty White, saying nasty things and swearing and it’s like, ‘Ohh…so funny, she’s old and has a foul mouth! Ha Ha!’
There’s an older woman who wants to go to a strip club. And cut to the reaction of an 18 year old laughing as if to say, “Oh, how weird, she’s old and wants some action!”
Although it’s refreshing to see older improv actors on TV without Botox, the one-note premise of the stereotyping of older people is scary. Especially when I realized that I was one of those older people.
Hey, do you really think that there will come an age when you won’t be who you are now? Really?
Let me explain it to my younger friends. There I am doing what I have always done in my life, having sex, going to Burning Man, and snowboarding -- except now people have opinions about it because I’m over 50. So, that’s kind of weird.
I tend to forget how old I am, and it sometimes hurts my feelings. Early this spring, I was on a chairlift at Mammoth, and some 15 year old snowboarder dudes joined me on my chair. They were really cool. On the ride up we discussed different approaches to jumps, how to catch more air, and just how awesome the day was. When we got to the top, they waved, “Later!” as they boarded off. Watching them board away, I felt the sadness of rejection. I realized that I had actually thought that we would do some runs together. Perhaps, we’d share some tunes, and they would turn me on to music I didn’t know about. And maybe they’d even invite me to drop by their condo and play Guitar Hero. But, watching them go off, I realized that I they saw something I couldn’t see – my age. They didn’t see a potential friend; they just saw an old person. And hanging with them would be considered weird, or even creepy.
Wow… when did this happen to me? Damn the day that AARP mailers started showing up in my mailbox. Damn the day I found that white wadded up Kleenex in my left hand, just like my grandma always seem to have. How did it get there?
Yes, there have been changes due to age. This year at Burning Man, I felt like going to where the techno music was blasting at 4am and screaming in my Jewish Grandma’s voice, “Turn that damn music down!”
But, actually, it was at Burning Man where people didn’t really look at me as different. Age didn’t matter there. One night, I hung out for hours with a 21-year-old guy who just thought I was cool. He said he felt like he could talk to me, and wished that he could talk to his own mom like that.
So here’s the thing: no matter what your age, there’s one thing that everyone wants and everyone can offer to others. It taking the time to really listen -- and to hear what someone else has to share. That’s one thing that doesn’t go away with age.